Jim Kouri
Afghan surge: British troops deploy, Obama sermonizes
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By Jim Kouri
December 2, 2009

After months of what's become termed "dithering," President Barack Obama is prepared to unveil his long-awaited Afghan plan tonight on prime time television. Meanwhile, United Kingdom military forces are already prepared for their troop deployment including manpower, weapons, tactical vehicles and state-of-the-art body armor.

The Chief of the Defense Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, on Monday confirmed to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown that the military have all the equipment they need to commit additional troops to wage war in Afghanistan.

The Prime Minister had said that increasing the number of British personnel in Afghanistan would be contingent on military commanders having the equipment they need for the tasks they are asked to undertake.

Sir Jock confirmed to the National Security, International Relations and Development Committee (NSID) that this condition has been met.

Sir Jock Stirrup, said: "If you look at what we have done with our equipment between August this year and December, then you'll see that we have increased our levels of equipment holdings by far more than the proposed increase in ground forces. So absolutely in terms of quantity we've more than met the remit."

"The equipment that our people are using is frankly the best that they've ever had in any of my 40 years of service and it's getting better all the time, so in terms of numbers, in terms of quality, both are increasing," he said.

Sir Jock's view was based on the substantial increases in the numbers of armored vehicles and helicopters available in theatre since British troop numbers were increased to 9,000 in August. Improvements include:

  • Newly arrived Merlin helicopters today given the 'green light' for operations in Afghanistan a month ahead of schedule;

  • They have almost doubled helicopter flying hours since November 2006 through increases in numbers and improvements in availability of Chinook, Sea King and Lynx. This will increase further in the coming months with more Merlin helicopters available for frontline operations;

  • By the end of the year the number of heavily armored, mine-resistant MASTIFF vehicles will have almost doubled (a 93 per cent increase);

  • A 77 per cent increase in the number of RIDGBACK, a smaller, more agile version of the MASTIFF, since August 2009;

  • Introduction of two brand new tactical support vehicles — the COYOTE and the HUSKY which carry troops, kit and supplies the front line;

  • 5,000 sets of the brand new OSPREY ASSAULT body armor covers and Mark 7 helmets have been sent to theatre, and 5,000 more on the way;

  • As well as body armor and personal weapons, troops who deploy on operations are issued a 'black bag' containing over $4,000 of equipment that a soldier needs from boots and sleeping bags to camel back water packs and binoculars;

  • By May 2010, the number of available hours provided by the Hermes 450, Desert Hawk and Reaper Unmanned Aerial Vehicles will have increased by around 33%, 50% and 80% respectively;

  • Overall, since 2006, they have delivered equipment valued at more than £10 billion to the Armed Forces.

In a press statement, British Defense Secretary Bob Ainsworth said: "Our forces in Afghanistan are risking their lives daily and they deserve our support. The mission there is vital for our national and international security and we must not lose our resolve. There has been a very substantial improvement over the last few months in helicopter numbers and in protective vehicles. The ratio — even with the increase in troops — has improved quite considerably in both of those areas which are of vital importance to the safety and ability for our people in Afghanistan to operate."

The British Ministry of Defense also reported on Monday that following the arrival of the first RAF Merlin helicopters in Afghanistan, the initial Merlin force has now passed the extensive pre-flight checks enabling them to take to the Afghan skies one month ahead of schedule.

This declaration of an Initial Operating Capability (IOC) means that following transportation to Afghanistan; re-assembly and pre-flight checks, Merlins are now available for operational flying on the front line. The Merlins are transporting troops to and from the Forward Operating Bases and are re-supplying them with ammunition, food and equipment.

The full Merlin deployment to Afghanistan will be completed by the end of this year, providing a significant increase in UK military helicopters. Merlins can carry up to 20 personnel and will provide an additional capability to the Chinook, Sea King and Lynx.

© Jim Kouri

 

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Jim Kouri

Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police... (more)

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